The Fixer

Thornton is a keen squash player. Anyone who knows or plays squash knows there is nothing the slightest bit ‘social’ about it, unlike other racket sports such as tennis and badminton. You have to take it seriously at every level. It’s all about crushing your opponent – simply because if you stop and have a chat, the ball gets cold and it is like starting again.

So, despite his casual, relaxed demeanour, Thornton has to have that tenacity to achieve and win. If you don’t want to win, don’t play squash, let alone sort out corporate problems such as CL. Thornton is obviously an operator.

Very businesslike, he states: “I am very focused on developing our business for the foreseeable future. The future will look after itself but eventual retirement will include taking the time to enjoy the brands I have invested so much of my life in building – responsibly of course.”

So what was his first drink and when did he have it? “McEwan’s lager on a school rugby tour to the north of Scotland. It tasted quite good but didn’t do much for my game as I recall.”


His reply to his favourite drink is rather disappointingly corporate, but if that is what you have lived and breathed: “Black Bottle scotch whisky in a tall glass over ice with diet cola and a dash of Angostura bitters.

“Savanna cider when watching sport and wine with food – particularly our Nederburg Anchorman or Motorcycle Marvel. Single malt scotch when relaxing in the evening.” The words of a true Scotsman.

Apart from squash, Thornton plays golf and enjoys “watching sport, particularly football and rugby”.

His proudest (corporate) moment: “Driving the acquisition of Black Bottle and Bunnahabhain (Burn Stewart) from Edrington in 2002. Over 15 years these brands have driven considerable shareholder value and continue to do so.”

Married with two boys, both studying at university, he continues: “I love the passion individuals have for the brands they represent – it is a defining feature of the industry.

“The frustration is binge-drinking and the social and regulatory consequences. At its heart the industry is very responsible.

How would he like to change things? “Reduce the domination of the retail sector across Europe. It limits consumer choice and drives an unhealthy focus on price which often does not reflect well on the industry – a craft-based industry should not be commoditised.”

What is his message to buyers, specifiers and to consumers? “Don’t be obsessed with low pricing. Price increases are necessary to ensure quality and investment in the category. Market and sell our brands with respect for their heritage and consume them with the responsibly they deserve.”

And is he lucky? “Yes, very. I work in an industry where the brands we sell build long-lasting connections with consumers and deliver enjoyment –what could be better?

“My epitaph might say: ‘Why is everyone going home early?’ They are not really, but I’m a bit of a workaholic.”